November 20, 2013

Pass Mountain 2013 Race Report

In the dark hours of the Javelina Jundred, a couple weeks ago, I started really falling apart. Afraid I wouldn't even be able to finish 100K, I started negotiating with myself. «Just finish this one run, then it's over. You don't have to run anything else for weeks, even months if you must. Just get through these 4 loops». Knowing I wouldn't have to put out any more efforts for a while relaxed me, and eventually, I did complete the 100K.

And, of course, a couple days later I was back out running :)

I re-filled my calendar with more fun events, but I decided to sometimes opt for the shorter distances. My right foot was still not 100% back, and I wanted to give it a little break. So when I signed up for Pass Mountain, I decided to run a single loop. 25K. I had a couple good training runs before, and I felt some speed was getting back into me, so I thought maybe I could pull a fast one and try to get a new PR.

I drove to Usery Park in advance to camp out and relax, and immediately met Rick Valentine and his family, who had the same idea. We sat down for a couple beers, and ended up cooking together in their RV since the weather had turned to rain for the first time in my 3 months in Arizona. We didn't stay up too late and everyone went to bed to wake up fresh in the morning.

Maria had driven in later in the evening and other runners had trickled in as well. I was served another beautiful desert sunset, and fell asleep smiling.

The morning came quickly, like most race days. We all woke up early to see the 50K runners off. Michael and Kimberly Miller had joined the party, along with the best surprise of the day; Apache Tony Russ!!! He showed up 15 minutes late for his start, popping out of nowhere, and still took time for a big hug and some happy words before he took off chasing the other runners. I was super happy that Charity had made the trip too, so we spent some good times chatting and catching up.

An hour later, it was our turn to line up at the start. For some dumb reason, Maria and I ended up in the 5th or 6th front row, and I immediately said we didn't belong there. We should have been in the back, chatting up other runners and taking it easy. But it was too late; the signal was given and out we went. Fast.

The course starts out flat for several miles, so there was plenty of room for me to take off and sustain a pace way faster than my usual. But I have to say, I felt great and exhilarated. I was stunned, too, that it took me at least a mile to catch up to La Mariposa, whom I'd never seen run so fast. «Whoooaaaa, girl! I could barely catch up to you!». «Yeah!», she hollered back, «Maybe we're running a little too fast?»


It was too late to change my game plan, so I smiled and went ahead. I have to admit I was very pleased when a fast runner approached behind and didn't pass me. «You go ahead, man!». «Nah, you have a great pace!».

We stayed together for maybe 2 more miles, playing in the twisted rolling trails. My legs were strong and I felt energized, but I knew this feeling wouldn't last long. Slowly, my energy started to wane and my running buddy pressed ahead.

It's all right. I'm never going to run fast if I don't try, right? So I slowed down a little, and enjoyed my last miles until the climb to the pass. I ate a gel or two, trying to regain some energy. But I didn't feel much of a kick. Ah, well.

The climb was fun and challenging at times, mostly due to the presence of mountain bikers, but mostly recreational hikers of a certain age. Some of them were nimble and quick enough to move away from the trail, but not others. At one point, I had to come to a literal screeching halt because an elderly man was blocking the path, and it was the only way to avoid a painful encounter of the face-to-face kind.

When the climb got steeper, it became quite obvious that I wouldn't pull a PR, so I started to take it easy and stopped to take a couple pictures of the gorgeous environment and surrounding mountains.


I heard a sound like if someone had thrown a raw chicken against the rock slabs. Then a girl screamed for help. I turned around and darted back on the trail, to find a crashed dude, still face down, his hands and face dripping bright red blood on the rocks. He look pretty smashed up.

«You all right? What's your name? I'm first aid, we're gonna take care of you».


«OK, man, take it easy. You dizzy? Nauseous?» He was pretty banged up, but he made sense. I ruled out that he might have severe trauma or a head injury, but he still looked pretty bad. Some more runners arrived at the scene, and one jumped out of the little crowd. «I'm an ER doctor». I turned around, and told her to unzip my vest and take out the bladder, to get to my S.O.L. Survival kit. She was pretty pleased that I had some gear, so she opened up the pouch and took out some duct tape while I used a sweat rag to press against a pretty bloody gash in my poor new friend's eyebrow.

We used rolled napkin bits and duct tape to patch up the wounds, then someone thought of using my Buff as a headband, which would keep the makeshift bandages in place. Some minutes later, Will was back up on his feet and, although wobbly, able to walk.

After reassuring her that I would stick with Will on the trails until the next aid station, the running doctor leaped ahead and resumed her run. We started walking slowly along the trails, and I made sure to stay close to Will for his first steps, asking him many questions to make sure he still made sense. He had a headache, but no other symptoms.

The rest of our run was mostly a walk, and we never crossed another aid station so we stayed together the whole way. Not only did Will tough it out, he even managed to resume running for the last couple miles and cross the finish line running. I gave him the «Toughest Guy On The Trails» award for the day, in the form of a cold Indio, but I guess he didn't feel like beer. He stayed in the medical tent for a bit, then seemed to fall asleep so I left him alone.

Before we went our separate ways, I explained to him the story of the Buff he was wearing. It was given to me by Josue Stephens and his wife Paula, in the Copper Canyons, after I'd lost mine. This Buff had traveled to numerous places and been on countless runs, and now it was his. He would get to keep it until someone else needed it, then give it away again. He liked the idea.

So maybe one day, while running the trails, you will trip on something and face-plant, then some stranger will patch you up and make sure you're OK.

Leaving you with a very special blue, white and gray-striped Buff.

On est des humains avant d'ĂȘtre des coureurs. Quand l'un de nous tombe, on tombe tous un peu. Alors on tend la main et on fait ce que les humains font le mieux; on s'entraide.


  1. Flint this is a quintessential running free experience. Good on you my friend. Thanks for sharing the story and the spirit of trail running.

  2. As you said to me (Will) as I was urging you to run on "We are humans first." Thanks for making my first trail running fall less painful :-)

    Hopefully our paths will cross on the trails again and next time we will share that beer at the end.

    God's speed, my friend.

    1. Will, my friend! How are you? Did you make a next day's picture? How did you look?

      I said it before, I'll say it again; you were the toughest guy on the trails that day, man!

  3. I'm so glad you were there to help him out. <3 Lyerin